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What is COVID-19?
- This is an infectious disease that was discovered to causes a cluster of pneumonia cases first identified in Wuhan, China.
- It is caused by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, formerly known as “2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)” and the disease was officially named COVID-19, by the World Health Organisation on February 11, 2020.
- The COVID-19 is an abbreviation of, CO- corona, VI-Virus and D-Disease and 19 represents the year it was first identified (2019).
- It is a new disease that has been noted to cause mild upper respiratory tract illnesses in humans.
- It was declared a pandemic by the WHO, on March 11, 2020.
What causes COVID-19?
- COVID-19 is caused by a Coronavirus that is named the Novel Coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan China in December 2019.
- The Novel Coronavirus was named the Severe acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2).
What is SARS-CoV-2?
- This is the novel Coronavirus of 2019 that causes the infectious disease, knows as COVID-19.
- SARS-CoV-2 is the abbreviation of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2. ‘2’ represents a type two of the first Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV), identified in humans in Guangdong province of southern China in 2002.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- COVID-19 elicits symptoms similar to those of common cold and flu.
- The symptoms include fever, tiredness, and cough with some patients having general body aches and pain, nasal congestion, running nose, sore throat and/or diarrhea.
- The symptoms are normally mild and their onset is gradual.
- Some individuals who are infected may not show symptoms.
- Most people, about 80%, have been noted to recover from the disease without special treatment while the others who are immunocompromised (elderly and those with underlying conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure) or immune-suppressed (heart problems), develop serious illness associated with difficulty in breathing.
- Seek medical attention if experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms.
How long does the COVID-19 infection last?
- There is no global standard of the longevity of COVID-19 infection affected countries have adopted different guidelines as to when a Covid-19 patient is cleared for discharge.
- A patient is stated to have recovered after testing negative for at least two swabs within 24 hours apart and he can be discharged.
- This ensures the recoveree does not infect others when discharged to the community.
What are the risk factors for COVID-19?
- Those most at risk of contracting the disease are individuals who have come into contact with infected patients or persons in the pre-symptomatic phase of the disease infection.
- Contracting the disease can be through physical touching the infected droplets of the infected person.
- The disease is much more severe if the individual exposed to the virus is an elderly person, he/she has an underlying condition such as diabetes, heart problems, hypertension.
- Health workers who are handling COVID-19 patients are also at risk because they come to very close contact with the patients.
- Caregivers for COVID-19 patients are also at risk.
- Persons who have traveled from COVID-19 affected countries in recent times, since the outbreak of the Viral infection.
What is the incubation period of the virus that causes COVID-19?
- The incubation period is the time between catching the virus and onset of symptoms of the disease.
- The estimated incubation period of COVID-19 ranges from 1-14 days, most commonly around 5 days, according to the WHO.
Transmission and Diagnosis of COVID-19
What are the sources of the virus?
- Coronaviruses are known to be zoonotic viruses, originating from animals especially wild animals such as bats, camels, cats, which get transmitted to humans.
- Coronaviruses naturally live in these animals circulating within their systems and when transmitted to humans through eating undercooked meat of these animals or coming into contact with the infected animal droplets and feces.
- Ones the virus infects the humans causing respiratory illnesses, and humans also become a source of viral transmission to other humans, by also coming into contact with the respiratory droplets from infected persons.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
- The virus can be transmitted from person to person through small infected droplets from the nose or/and mouth, spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.
- These droplets can land on objects and surfaces around the person.
- Other people then contract the infection by touching these objects and/or surfaces, then touch their eyes and/or nose and/or mouth.
- People can also contract the infection when they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who cough or exhale droplets.
- This explains the importance of social distancing of at least 1 meter away from a person who is sick.
Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be transmitted through the air?
- Studies have suggested that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person rather than through air.
Can CoVID-19 be caught from a person who has no symptoms?
- Yes. The disease is mainly spread through infected respiratory droplets from an infected person who coughs.
- However, the risk of contracting the disease from an asymptomatic person is very low and since people with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, there is a possibility of catching COVID-19 from a person who has a mild cough and is not feeling ill.
- The WHO is still assessing research into the period of transmission of COVID-19 with continued updates.
Can I catch COVID-19 from the feces of someone with the disease?
- Yes, however, the risks seem to be low.
- Earlier investigations indicated that the virus can be shed in feces in some cases, but the spread through this route is not a main feature of the outbreak according to the WHO.
- Ongoing research is being assessed by the WHO on the way COVID-19 is spread and they will continue to share new findings and since this is a risk, it is also another reason to maintain high hygienic standards in washrooms, hand washing after using the washrooms and also before eating.
How long does the virus remain alive on surfaces?
- According to the WHO, it is not certain how long the virus causing COVID-19 lasts on the surface but it has tendencies similar to other coronaviruses, to mean, research has shown that the virus causing COVID-19 can survive for a few hours to several days (3 days) depending on the type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment.
- It is advisable to disinfect surfaces that are suspected to harbor the virus to kill the virus and offer protection to individuals.
- Clean your hands with alcohol-based hand washes or wash with water and soap. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and/or noses.
What is a community spread?
- Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Can I contract COVID-19 by receiving a package from an affected country such as China?
- No. It is unlikely to catch the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has moved, traveled and been exposed to different atmospheric conditions and temperatures.
Can pets be infected with COVID-19?
- Yes and No.
- So far we have only had a single case of a dog getting infected with the COVID-19 from its owner who also tested positive to the disease, in Hong Kong.
- This was first reported and published by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
- However, besides that, there is no evidence that a dog or cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. The WHO is continuously monitoring the latest research on this and topics emerging from researches on COVID-19
Are pregnant women at the risk of getting COVID-19?
- Currently, there is no documented report on the susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19.
- According to the CDC, pregnant women experience immunological and physiological changes which may make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections including COVID-19.
- They also might be at risk for severe illness, morbidity or mortality compared to the general population as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)* and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, during pregnancy.
- Pregnant women should engage in the usual preventive action to avoid infection like washing hands often and avoiding people who are sick.
Can COVID-19 be passed from pregnant woman to the fetus or newborns and during breastfeeding?
- According to the CDC, there is no report on if a pregnant woman with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her fetus or baby during pregnancy or delivery.
- No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
- In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breastmilk.
Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention of COVID-19
How is COVID-19 diagnosed?
- The FDA among other laboratories are in coordination to produce standard rapid tests for the COVID-19. Currently, the diagnosis of COVID-19 is:
- The Panther Fusion® SARS-CoV-2 Assay is a real-time RT-PCR- It is an in-vitro diagnostic test for qualitatively detecting RNA from SARS-CoV-2 isolated from the nasopharyngeal (NP) and oropharyngeal (OP) swab specimens obtained from individuals who meet COVID-19 clinical and/or epidemiological criteria.
- Serological testing to confirm immunological responses to the specific virus, SARS-CoV-2 for example, cytokine identification, measurement, and quantification.
- in vitro isolation and cultivation of the virus in Vero cell lines.
Can I test negative for COVID-19 then later test positive?
- Using the CDC-developed diagnostic test, a negative result means that the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in the person’s sample. In the early stages of infection, it is possible the virus will not be detected.
- For COVID-19, a negative test result for a sample collected while a person has symptoms likely means that the COVID-19 virus is not causing their current illness.
How can I protect myself from COVID-19 and prevent the spread of the infection?
- For protection and prevention of spread, the WHO has stipulated measures which we should practice to reduce and prevent the spread of the disease.
- These measures are intended for everyone to practice and there are continued updates on the website and through public health authorities for every affected country for new developments, to be followed.
- Some countries have seen a decline in the infection spread by taking and practicing these measures, such as China and Indonesia.
- However, the situation is unpredictable therefore regular updates can be monitored from the latest news.
Protection measures for everyone
It involves taking simple precautions:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
- Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.
For persons who are in or have visited affected areas in recent times (past 14 days) need to follow the above measures (protection measure for everyone) in addition to:
- Self-isolation (self-quarantine) by staying at home if you develop mild symptoms and you feel unwell with fever, headache and low-grade fever (37.3°C) an a running nose, until you recover or visit a medical facility promptly for a checkup, to identify the cause of the symptoms. Wear a mask to avoid infecting people around you. Why? To avoid contact with others and to also help the facility protect you and others from COVID-19 and spreading it as well as infections from other viruses.
- Share your travel history with the medical or health care provider or any contact with a recent traveler, in case you have developed symptoms such as headaches, low-grade fever, coughing, and runny nose. Why? This will help the medical or health care provider take necessary precautions and also help guide you to the right health facility to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. this will also help the authorities to track trace other persons who might have been exposed to COVID-19, by interacting with you.
Do face masks protect against COVID-19?
- Yes and No.
- Wearing of masks is advisable for persons who have symptoms of COVID-19 or are coughing and also for health caregivers, workers and if you are taking care of a patient with COVID-19. Disposable masks can only be used ones. But if you are not ill or not taking care of an ill person, you are simply wasting a mask that can be helpful in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 and other viruses, since there is a worldwide shortage of masks. The WHO advises people to use masks wisely. WHO advises the rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and misuse of masks.
- However, for those wearing masks to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19, you need to know that masks are not completely protective measures against COVID-19. This is because COVID-19 is spread by coming into contact with the respiratory droplets on an infected person. The droplets can enter the eyes or nose and mouth of an uninfected person so despite protecting your nose and mouth, the droplets can still enter through the eyes, which means one is not completely safe by wearing a face mask. Although, masks will make some difference if you’re walking around town or taking a bus.
- So masks are crucial for the health and social care workers looking after patients and are also recommended for family members who need to care for someone who is ill – ideally, both the patient and carer should have a mask.
- The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing
What type of masks are used in protection against COVID-19?
- There are two well-known masks that can be used during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect against its transmission and spread. They are the surgical masks and N95 respirator masks
What protective gear is used by health workers to protect them from contracting COVID-19?
- According to the CDC, the personal protective gear for health workers are gowns, coveralls, gloves, and respirators.
- The gowns are meant to protect against microorganisms and the type of gown is based on the level of risk of contamination. Areas of surgical and isolation are critical zones and therefore surgical gowns and isolation gowns are uses respectively because of direct contact with blood, body fluids and/or other potentially infectious materials. Gowns are easy to put on and take off. they are the most common and most familiar within a health care set up for health workers, and training must be done for correct use. The surgical and isolation gowns do not provide continuous whole-body protection, they have openings on the back and the lower parts of the legs.
- Coveralls provide 360° protection since they are designed to cover the whole body including the back and lower legs, head, and feet as well. However, they generate a lot of heat on the wearer and they are a lot heavier because of the extra fabric added to it.
- Gloves – Nonsterile disposable patient examination gloves, are used for routine patient care in healthcare settings, and they are appropriate for the care of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Respirators – are the personal protective devices that are worn on the face or head and cover at least the nose and mouth. A respirator is used to reduce the wearer’s risk of inhaling hazardous airborne particles (including infectious agents), gases or vapors. Respirators, including those intended for use in healthcare settings, are certified by the CDC/NIOSH. In the wake of the COVID-19, N95 mask respirators are recommended by the CDC and the WHO for use by healthcare workers.
How is social distancing (physical distancing) helping in preventing COVID-19 transmission?
- Social distancing (physical distancing) is maintaining at least 1.8 meters (or 6 feet) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Social distancing (physical distancing) has reduced and slowed down the spread and transmission of COVID-19, with a notable decrease in the number of new cases in affected countries that have practiced the social distancing measures including China, EU countries, UK and Indonesia.
Is there a COVID-19 Vaccine or drug for the treatment of COVID-19?
- No. To date, there is no vaccine yet nor is there a specific antiviral drug to treat and/or prevent COVID-19.
- However, infected patients’ symptoms by symptomatic management and supportive care, to relieve the pain caused by the symptoms. seriously infected individuals should be hospitalized To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019.
- Research investigations are ongoing to come up with possible vaccines and drug treatments.
- Some drugs are being tested through clinical trials in coordination with the World Health Organisation with major efforts to prevent and treat COVID-19.
- It is advised that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from the viral infection is to frequently clean hands, cough while covering yourself with a tissue or with the bend of the elbow, and maintain a social distance of about 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing and sneezing.
- The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating the COVID-19?
- No. Antibiotics are naturally designed to work against bacterial infections and therefore they do not work against viruses or viral infections. Since COVID-19 is a viral infection, antibiotics can not be used to prevent or treat it. And NOTE, antibiotics should only be taken by a physician’s prescription to treat a bacterial infection.
How can we stop the stigmatization of COVID-19 recovered patients?
- The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a stressful time for people and their communities gripped with fear and anxiety. This may lead to social stigma among the people, places, and things that have been affected. Stigmatization and discrimination can occur when people associated with the disease, COVID-19 within a population or a nation or after a recoveree has been discharged or one who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine, besides not being a risk of spread.
- Stigma affects the emotional and mental health of those affected. Stopping stigma is important in making communities and community members resilient. And we all can stop the stigmatization by knowing the facts and sharing them with the community.
- As documented by the CDC, to stop the stigmatization of these groups, communicators and the public health officials can help counter stigma during the COVID-19 response by:
- Maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the patients they tend to.
- Raising awareness to the people about COVID-19 without causing fear, by educating them with accurate information about how the virus spreads.
- Shun negative behavior such as negative statements on social media about groups of people or the exclusion of people who pose no risk from regular activities.
- Quickly communicate the risk or lack of risk from associations with products, people, and places.
- Be cautious about the images you share ensuring they do not enforce stereotypes.
- Freely engage and interact with the stigmatized groups through the media and social platforms.
- Thank healthcare workers and responders. People who have traveled to areas where the COVID-19 outbreak is happening to help have performed a valuable service to everyone by helping make sure this disease does not spread further.
- Show social support for people, friend and relatives who are in the affected areas and those who have returned from China.
How is SARS-CoV-2 different from SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV, and Influenza?
- SARS-CoV-2, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus, type 2 is the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, currently, causing the ongoing pandemic. SARS-CoV, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome type 1 is another type of Coronavirus that caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and MERS-CoV, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also another type of Coronavirus that was responsible for causing the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also a respiratory tract illness, in the Middle East originating from Saudia Arabis in 2012. Lastly, the influenza virus is the virus known to cause flu, H1N1 (in 2009).
- These viruses have a genetic relationship but they cause different diseases with different levels of severities, to mean SARS was more deadly but less infectious, while COVID-19 is less deadly but much more contagious and MERS.
COVID-19 – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Video by Dr. Frank O’Neill
References and Sources